Lucky's Son

08/01/2023 01:56 AM By Lisa Anderson
The Chews Letter
Carlos Gonzalez
Carlos Gonzalez
Story by Cynthia McFarland • Photos by Joshua Jacobs

Lucky's Son

Food Trailer Owner Makes His Dad Proud

Every day, when Carlos Gonzalez goes to work, his father—who inspired his passion for cooking—is in the back of his mind. 

Born and raised in Ocala, Carlos is the youngest—and only boy—of Luciano and Angie’s four children. 

Carlos was barely 9 when he started cooking with his dad. He has fond memories of those times in the kitchen. While he loved learning from his dad, the most appealing thing was simply spending that quality time together.

Carlos’ father, whom everyone called “Lucky,” spent years as a manager at Shoney’s and passed that management mindset on to his son.

Culinary Beginnings

A 2007 graduate of Lake Weir High School, Carlos was enrolled in culinary programs there. “Chef John Bell was my culinary teacher and spoke life into me about the culinary aspect and where it could take me. He taught me lots of things,” recalls Carlos. 

At 15, Carlos got his first job working at a mom-and-pop pizza shop. He continued working at different pizza shops until graduating from high school. 

“There was an opportunity for me to make some money in the construction business, so I moved to Baltimore, and I did that for a year,” says Carlos.

Back home in Ocala, he again turned to the food industry for his next job and found it at LongHorn Steakhouse. He was 20 at the time.

After starting as a salad maker and fry cook, he was promoted up the line to the “hot side” as a grill cook. He became a trainer, regularly traveling to different LongHorns to train employees.

“From there, I decided to make a career out of it. I ended up getting promoted to manager and did this for four years,” says Carlos, who opened a LongHorn location in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and managed it for a year.

He returned to Florida and was managing the LongHorn Steakhouse in Gainesville, when the pandemic struck at the very end of 2019.

Pandemic Upheaval

“Once COVID hit, things got crazy; it was overwhelming,” says Carlos. “I was talking to my sister Jamie, and she knew someone who was selling a food truck. I always wanted to do that, so I thought, I’m going to jump on this.”

At that point, he’d worked for the steakhouse chain for 11 years.

“I left LongHorn at the beginning of 2020. I took some of what I’d accumulated from my 401k, and the good thing was, because of COVID, I wasn’t penalized for doing this,” says Carlos.

He was in the process of purchasing the food truck and planning his next career chapter when his father had a heart attack. Sadly, Lucky Gonzalez passed away on June 11, 2020.

Because the food truck business already had a name and menu, Carlos added his dad’s name and stuck with the menu, adding his own flair to the burgers, Philly steaks, and chicken sandwiches.

“In the beginning, I called it Lucky’s Food Wizards and did this for a year,” says Carlos. “Then, I decided it would be more efficient to have a food trailer, instead. My mom ended up helping me purchase the food trailer, and in 2022, I officially made it Lucky’s Kitchen LLC.”

And yes, the wings and halo on the Lucky’s Kitchen logo are in honor of his dad.

Carlos’ mother, Angie, works with him in business, and they enjoy a closer relationship than many mothers and sons. “If it wasn’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be where I’m at,” says Carlos, now 35. “My dad told me to be sure I took care of my mom, so that’s always been in my mind.”

Working throughout Marion County, Lucky’s Kitchen sets up in different locations and operates Tuesday through Saturday. 

Best sellers include the Lucky Philly, BBQ Burger and Holy Chicken. Carlos also makes, labels, and sells his specialty BBQ and ranch sauces.

When Carlos isn’t behind the grill at Lucky’s Kitchen, he can often be found on his motorcycle or on the water, enjoying his boat and jet ski. 

“I have some toys, but in my spare time I like to spend time with the family,” he says, adding that if he’s not at the lake, he’s often hanging with his cousins. 

According to Carlos, that flexibility is the best thing about being self-employed.

Opportunities to expand the business have Carlos seriously contemplating buying another food truck. Having both a food truck and food trailer would enable him to set up in two places at once, so this is a future goal for Lucky’s Kitchen.

“Being that I named the business after my dad, it just gives me drive to keep pushing and make him proud,” adds Carlos.

The best part of his day is when he gets positive feedback from customers about the food he’s worked hard to prepare.

“I like to see people smile after I cook for them,” he says.
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Lisa Anderson